Vinicius Junior is still months away from his long-awaited move to Real Madrid.
The Brazilian youngster – still only 17 years old, remember – has already agreed to move to the Spanish capital for a mind-boggling £39.6 million, but he is unable to move to Europe until he reaches 18 in July.
So in the meantime, he’s been quietly establishing himself within Flamengo’s first-team and is seemingly tearing up the Brazilian top-flight in much the same way a certain Neymar did back when he was 17.
In fact, the early similarities are striking and it further cements the reasons why Madrid were so keen to fork out such a hefty sum of money for the kid just ten days after he made his first-team debut back in May.
And while his debut was widely mocked, the teenager has been somewhat of a hero for the club lately, ever-adapting to the physical aspects of the league and making several cameo appearances from the bench, frequently scoring goals and wowing fans with his performances.
In fact, this season, in 1,380 minutes of football at senior level, Vinicius has scored eight goals – which is one more than Neymar managed in his first 1,500 minutes at Santos.
Once he does move to Madrid, it seems he’ll start working in and around the club’s first-team squad during pre-season, before the coaching staff decide whether his development would be better suited on the peripherals of the senior side for the upcoming season, or if he should go out on loan.
However, if they do go for the second option, he’s expected to join a European club and not a Brazilian one (sorry, Flamengo).
So, having already broken one of Neymar’s earliest records and, of course, mesmerising Madrid’s scouts with his talents during the Under-17 South American Championship last year, can he really become Los Blancos’ answer to Neymar?
At 18, Neymar had firmly established himself as Santos’ standout star (alongside his good friend Ganso) and was naturally compared to the likes of Robinho and the great Pele.
Clubs in Europe did start sniffing around the youngster at the point – notably, Premier League side West Ham – but he didn’t leave Santos until 2013, at the age of 21.
So in terms of national and international recognition, Vinicius is seemingly ahead of the Paris Saint-Germain star at this early stage in his career.
Vinicius’ excellent goal against Botafogo a few weeks back and his cocky, cry-baby celebration afterwards caused quite a stir in Brazil, with even Neymar getting involved in the national discussion by defending the youngster’s antics.
Responding to an Instagram post from Brazilian football account Futebol Na Tela, Neymar wrote: “Football is mad. If your team wins against that of your friend and you celebrate it, you are making a mistake. You will be punished.”
And it’s not just Neymar who’s taking note of the youngster’s performances.
Late last year, Vinicius revealed that his future Madrid teammate and compatriot Marcelo was sending him regular messages of praise for his performances, further establishing his confidence ahead of the big move.
He said: “I have not spoken with Zidane, but I did with Marcelo, Casemiro and Danilo about what it is like living in Madrid.
“Whenever I play a good game, Marcelo sends me a message. I’m always waiting for that message.”
It won’t be long until we see him throw on the white shirt of Madrid, and with the waning influence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the club’s attack, the move could come at exactly the right time for one of world football’s most fascinating young talents.
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